Industry News: The Making of the Art of Fielding
A few weeks ago, I somehow stumbled over a book called The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I bought it, downloaded it, read it, and enjoyed it. Among other things, it’s the story of a college kid who has worked like no one else to be a perfect shortstop. Through high school and the first three years of college, he’s a perfect fielder. No errors. No throwing errors, no fielding errors. And then a throw gets away from him and hits his roommate and puts him in the hospital.
The book is well-crafted and multi-threaded. It’s a good read, even if you aren’t in baseball. It’s really a book about youth and figuring out you might not become what you thought you would be. It’s about perfection and good enough and its author got a boatload of an advance.
I know about the advance because I read an 18,000-word e-book called How a Book is Born: The Making of the Art of Fielding. It’s available in Kindle and Nook formats, and to quote a review, it’s the best two bucks you’ll spend this week. It’s a good read and it manages to cover what’s been going on in the publishing industry, and what might go on. It posits some predictions about the future of the industry–the big six will become the big three, as three of them will swallow the other three–and maybe book stores and libraries will vanish or change substantially.
The original version of the article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. It describes the unlikely process Harbach’s book took on the way to publication. Harbach was barely employed, but had been working on a novel for the better part of a decade. Through a series of unlikely events, he found an agent, then a publisher. Between the agent and the publisher came a bidding war that netted a $665,000 advance.
Kieth Gessen, the article’s writer, was Harbach’s friend from college. But he manages to write an even-handed, objective account of the process the book took, and the industry that published it. It’s a valuable look at the industry and where it might be going.